February 6, 2018
Washington Post: At the Phillips Collection, 2 young performers make for a dynamic combination
Tessa Lark
Tessa Lark
Lauren Desberg

By Charles T. Downey December 11, 2017

The Phillips Collection presented two dynamic musicians of the millennial generation, violinist Tessa Lark and pianist Roman Rabinovich, in an excellent recital Sunday at the Cosmos Club. Both have won major competitions as performers, and both offered their own compositions on this program.

The duo made a stellar combination in two slightly older pieces, beginning with a richly interpreted, smoldering performance of the first violin sonata of Brahms. Lark is playing on the exceptionally full-bodied ex-Gingold Stradivarius, loaned to her after a victory at the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis. Moderate tempo choices in the first two movements allowed both musicians to explore the dreamy sides of the piece. The folk-infused finale was equally gorgeous.

Another work imbued with a study of folk music — Bartok’s first violin sonata, which brought out the more explosive side of both performers — ended the program. While the second movement turned slightly soporific, the finale was a raucous tour de force, making the encore, Clara Schumann’s sedate “Romance No. 1,” a much-needed return to calm.

Rabinovich seems the more accomplished composer, represented in the world premiere of “Two-dot Wings,” written for Lark. The spiky dissonance of Bartok seems to influence this work, although Rabinovich’s melodic writing is more lyrical than jagged. Displaying an ear-diverting variety of textures and moods, this is a compositional voice to watch.

Lark had to shelve her own planned world premiere (“Impermanessence”) for her first composition, “Appalachian Fantasy.” Drawn from her childhood in Kentucky, this piece combines classical and bluegrass idioms more naturally than the work of her mentor, Mark O’Connor. Lark’s easy-listening arrangement of “En la Orilla Del Mundo” by Martin Rojas might have worked better as an encore.

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